Three paintings ostensibly made by German dictator Adolf Hitler when he was a young man were due to be auctioned off in Berlin Thursday, but German police seized, suspecting they were forgeries.
Three watercolors dating to 1910 and 1911 depicting alpine scenes were expected to fetch tens of thousands of euros at the Auktionshaus Kloss in Berlin, but were seized by police who tweeted they had opened an enquiry into “attempted fraud” and “falsification of documents,” France 24 reported.
Auctioneers had previously derided the paintings as having “no artistic value,” with auction house spokesperson Heinz-Joachim Maeder telling Reuters, “The value of these objects and the media interest is because of the name at the bottom.”
Auktionhaus Kloss”Landscape with rhine” drawing-watercolor, 25,2 cm x 35,6 cm, Adolf Hitler, signed and dated lower right 1911, with a certificate of authenticity from February 7, 2018
Auktionshaus Kloss”Alpine landscape” drawing-watercolor, 22,6 cm x 32,7 cm, Adolf Hitler, signed and dated lower right 1910, with a certificate of authenticity from November 25, 2017
Auktionshaus Kloss”Niederthal, Vent” drawing-watercolor, 25,6 cm x 36 cm, Adolf Hitler, signed and dated lower right 1911, with a certificate of authenticity from April 10, 2018
Before Hitler fought in World War I, he worked as a casual laborer and artist, drawing postcards and paintings and reportedly producing as many as three per day, the BBC noted. He was twice rejected from the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts in his native Austria. He joined the Nazi Party after the war, and the prolonged political and economic crisis throughout the 1920s helped him and the party rise to prominence. After seizing power in 1933, Hitler sought to destroy any of his old art he could track down, but hundreds of works still exist.
One of the largest collections is held by the US Army, which seized them during World War II, as the Allied Powers fought their way through Germany to destroy the Nazi regime, which was responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people through years of war and genocide. The BBC noted the collection has never been exhibited.
This isn’t the first time a Hitler painting has had its authenticity questioned, either. In 2009, 13 paintings claimed to be by Hitler were due to be auctioned off at Mullock’s auction house in the United Kingdom, but German publication Die Welt publicly challenged the authenticity of the paintings, saying they didn’t conform to Hitler’s style or subject matter. The auction house maintained their veracity and hired experts to vouch for them. They sold a month later for $143, 558.